Friday, July 30, 2021

Review: Action Comics #1033

Action Comics #1033 came out this week and was another tremendous issue in what is becoming a signature arc for writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. As Marvel used to say this one has it all!

The thing that grabbed me the most about this issue is how proactive and sort of demanding Superman is in this book. Usually Superman leads by example, uncomfortable with forcing his opinions on others. But here, faced with a Warworld filled with slaves, some of whom could be Kryptonians, he can't sit back. He can't listen to Earth-based squabbling. And if he has to insert himself and solve a problem now so that the fight on Warworld happens sooner, then he will. I mean it, there is one moment in this book which I will show where I said 'whoa' out loud. I haven't seen a Superman like that before.

But we also get this look at Thao-La and how she is handling meeting her hero, knowing she is supposed to kill him, and seeing her dealing with her own trauma. I love the different reactions we get out of the other super-family members too. This is a compelling story and seeing the different ways Thao-La's dilemma is being processed by the supporting cast adds to the depth.

I'd be remiss not to mention Daniel Sampere's art here. I have always liked his work but this has to be the best stuff I have seen by him. It is stunning. From inspirational splashes to solid expressive work to awkward meetings, the work complements the story phenomenally, really adding to the story.

On to the book!

We start out with some Task Force X scuba divers trying to steal the Genesis stone from Atlantis. They are caught. Last issue you might remember, an Atlantean scientist was transformed into a Kaiju by the Genesis stone. 

In a tense JLA meeting, we see how the world is reacting. Atlantis thinks this is an act of war by the United States. Aquaman understands that reaction.

Batman thinks Atlantis can't control the stone and it needs to be in the hands of others. Task Force X doesn't represent the government. So Atlantis should do the right thing.


His focus is on Warworld. The JLA needs to act against Mongul now. Warworld is filled with slaves. That has to be the priority.

I don't think I have seen this outspoken a Superman in a while. Is it the slavery? The Kryptonian connection? Both?

And here is the moment that floored me.

Atlantis won't give up the Genesis piece. The world is going to respond to this potential uncontrollable weapon. Both sides seem to be going to the trenches. Seemingly disgusted, Aquaman gets up to walk out. I guess the discussion is over.

Not yet.

Of screen, we hear Superman sternly say 'Stop'.

He wasn't finished.

I love that last panel. It's art but you can feel the silence in this room. Aquaman is stopped dead in his tracks. We see Superman's clenched fist, prominently in the middle of the panel.


This is an incredible moment.

He can't get away from the thought of the Warworld slaves living in toxic environments and forced labor. That has to be the focus of the League.

Atlantis is setting up blockades in the ocean; America is gearing up for war .Russia and China are denouncing the US attack on Atlantis. If all of this Earth nonsense is keeping the League Earth-bound, then Superman will take care of this.

More importantly, his 'family' won't allow the slaves to suffer because of some 'piece of rock'. They will take care of it.

Another wow. This is perhaps the most pro-active I have seen Superman.

And the panel layout, Superman distanced from his teammates, his back to them, shows how far apart he is in comparison to them.

In the Fortress, Thao-La seems to be thriving. She is sparring with battle robots, wielding blue laser vision, and looking pretty spry.

All of this feeds into Jon's distrust of her. He keeps asking her why she came to Earth and she doesn't really give him a straight answer.

Lois finally tells her of Jon's worries about Superman 'leaving', those myths of Superman being lost to Earth around this time.

Nice expressive work by Sampere with Thao-La here. Is she nervous because Jon is onto her mission? Shocked that he is thinking that? It is a bit of both. We know the truth but Lois probably can't read this here.

Lois tries to give Thao a Kryptonian toy to see if it spurs any memory. But Thao destroys it. She isn't a child, look at her chains.

And then we get some background around the chains these Warworld slaves wear. Remember that they have some sort of meaning to these people as they refuse to take them off despite being free. It shows how warped their look on life is, so buried in their understanding of their life in chains.

We learn that every link added to the chain is earned in battle, a link removed from your defeated foe and added to yours. The more slack your chain is, the more freedom you have, the greater a warrior you are. The shorter your chain, the weaker you are, the less freedom of movement you have.

Look at how stern and focused Thao is in this panel. 

And this concept of freedom earned by killing, freedom gained by increasing your leash, is diabolical. You can see how Mongul has trained these people. It's sad.

In the Atlantic, the US navy and the Atlantis army are squared off. Both are shouting 'last warnings' to the other.

And then, as promised, the Super-Family comes in to stop all this and deal with it.


What a splash page. Obviously, there is some angelic feel to this, the sun glinting through these beings coming from heaven, the birds circling them. 

Hey, there's Supergirl!

Glad to see her acting heroically and thinking about her new homeworld. 

I thank Johnson and Sampere for including her in this arc. I need to see this.

But seriously, I'd put this on a poster, a t-shirt, a coffee mug.

But you can see that Thao is torn.

Talking to her ill shipmates, she talks about how great Superman is. How he is a calming presence. She knows she is there to kill him but she can't help but be inspired by him.

Another nice moment of expression by Sampere as we see the contemplative Thao here.

Interestingly enough, Mongul sees her indecision, spying on her from Warworld. In a gruesome scene, the captured warriors in Atlantis use a device implanted in one of them to teleport into the Fortress.

The surviving warriors attack Thao to remind her of her mission. 

Then they face off against the other warrior present ... Lois Lane!

She doesn't care why Thao was there initially. She knows that know Thao is one of the family. And so she will defend Thao.

Great cliffhanger. Wonderful image of Lois.

And please ... please ... I hope the creative team has Lois say what this weapon is.

And it better be either a Neural Impacter or a Plasma Disrupter.

Anyways, such a great great issue. You see all the feelings that Thao La is dealing with. You see how demonstrative and pro-active Superman is, unlike him in so many ways. And you see how Lois and Jon are trying to deal with Thao.

This book is simply firing on all cylinders right now.

Overall grade: A


Kinofreak said...

The scene of the Super-Family has a strong KINGDOM COME vibe...

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

A new moment for the top 10 of supergirl : the trinity of family's El.

I also beliver that is superman's only arc or his family is as well portrayed as a family. It's been a long timre we saw the entire family united.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a great review. I agree, this is a brilliant serial. I love seeing Atlantis as an actual world power, not willing to be walked over. And Waller, she’s a loose cannon, what are the League going to do about her? And I wonder who the Task Force X invisible raiders were.

I wish we’d seen the aftermath of Thal-La being so insolent and presumptuous towards Lois - I hope she gave her a mouthful. I realise she’s had a tough life, but I do not like the woman. I did love her description of ‘the Superman effect’, though.

And I liked Lois talking about ‘the future teens’ (I’m with Superboy).

Line of the issue, though, goes to Jon - ‘Also, you killed our medical droid’.